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Female referees take the lead during time of change

FEATURE: For the first time, there are more female referee pairs than men's at the Women’s EHF EURO

Photo: Uros Hocevar

Has handball gotten more physical over the years? It seems that way, especially when looking at the new rules introduced earlier this year to keep up with that development.

Dragan Nachevski, chairman of the Technical Refereeing Committee at the European Handball Federation, has no doubt handball is getting more physical. Having himself been a referee for almost three decades, Nachevski has gone through generations of players and seen how the sport has changed over the years.

“In the past, it was difficult for me to find video clips where a direct red card is appropriate. But today, there are a lot of them, especially where players are hit in the face,” says Nachevski.  

With that in mind, the physical part of the game will be one of the major focus points for referees at the Women’s EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden.

“The referees will have to lead the game in a good and positive way. The main task of the referees will be to calm the players and have a clear line when it comes to progressive punishment. Everybody must be aware of what is possible and what is not during this EURO,” Nachevski says.

Instant replay will not trump the naked eye

Another focus point for the referees are the new rules introduced by the IHF earlier this year. Those rules include the blue card for example, which is shown in addition to the red card, and is a disqualification requiring a written report.

“I think it was a good decision to change these rules, because now we don’t have as much acting on the field, so to speak, like before. In this EURO we will be focusing closely on any hitting in the face. During this championship, we are going to focus on stopping these tendencies,” Nachevski says.

Another thing that will be used for the first time at the EHF EURO is instant replay – a possibility to watch a situation on a TV screen if the referees are in doubt about a major decision. Instant replay however, cannot be overused.

“No for sure – then the meaning and the importance of the video proof will be lost. It will only be used in special situations where something happens that is not visible for the referees,” says Nachevski

Female referees ready to take charge

During this Women’s EHF EURO, for the first time there will be more female referee pairs than men – seven out of 12.

“I’m very sure that all of them are ready to work at the highest level and am not in doubt they will do a good job,” says Nachevski.

However, perhaps the most well-known female referee pair on court now, French twins Charlotte and Julie Bonaventura, are not in Sweden as they are preparing to whistle at the Men’s World Championship in France next month.

Nachevski says that their progress is a good example for other female referee pairs:

“I’m very happy with Bonaventura and Bonaventura, I wish them all the best. It clearly shows that women are ready to take charge of the men’s game.”

“The destiny of referees”

When sat down with Nachevski, the group of referees were at a training session in Stockholm, and the positive atmosphere between them was clear.

“After having been a referee myself for 27 years, I know everything that was good and bad in any situation. So now I treat them like my children, you know. The good spirit is also in one way in the hand of the chairman who is leading them,” he says.

He adds that even though referees face criticism from time to time, it is important not to let that have too much of an influence. It is simply easier to blame the referees than criticising your teammate or coach.

“That is the destiny of the referees. And they must survive.”

written by Andri Yrkill Valsson / cg